What A Game!

by Peter Scherer

It was a true old style cup tie at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park, with underdogs Mickleover the dominant force for the majority of the 90 minutes. Heroic performances from the whole team, just falling short in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out.

Starting line-up: 1-Oliver Bosworth 2-Ben Sault 3-Jake Bennett 4-Will Atkinson 5-Fin Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Andy Dales 8-Dan Bradley 9-Stuart Beavon 10-Will Trueman 11-Oli Greaves. Subs: Rhys Dolan, Sam Tomlinson, Toby Smith, Harry Atwal, Zac Sandhu, Brandon Ferron.

Mickleover were quick out of the blocks and soon had the home defence on the back foot. Dales went close in the first minute following a free kick, keeper Hudson made a diving save, before Dales’ follow up was blocked.

Two minutes later it was Bennett bursting through on the left, Greaves got a shot in, but again it was blocked as the Latics were struggling to break out of their own half.

Seven minutes in and Bradley tried a long shot, tipped over by Hudson as it headed goalwards, before Oldham finally made a break, with Norwood’s cross finding no one waiting to receive.

It had been all in Mickleover’s favour until the 13th minute, when totally against the run of play, Kitching managed to get clear on the Mickleover right, his cross found Fondop’s head  and it was 0-1 after the hosts first real effort.

The goal gave Oldham the confidence to move out more and Hope had a shot well wide after 16 minutes, after a Fondop handball wasn’t given.

But Mickleover continued to fight back and a lovely crossfield ball from Mann found Bennett on the left. He cut inside and piled in a great shot, palmed away by the keeper, before Beavon’s follow up earned a corner.

Sault had looked unsettled a couple of times at right back and was beaten by Hope after 24 minutes. The shot was heading for the top corner, but with Bosworth at full stretch, he pulled off another magnificent save.

The home keeper almost gifted Dales a shot, with a poor clearance. But the defence managed to rally and block his progress, before Trueman charged forward a couple of minutes later and shot just wide of the left-hand post.

Just after the half hour Bosworth had to perform heroics again, when Fondop appeared to be offside by was allowed to continue unchallenged.

Into the final 10 minutes of the first half Dales and Bennett combined on the left and got a cross in, but no one was able to connect. But Mickleover were bombarding the home defence again as they sought an equaliser.

After a couple of corners, it finally came in the 43rd minute. Greaves had picked the ball up on the left and although the defence were back, there was scramble as Hudson edged towards his near post. Greaves continued and chipped the keeper, but with a defender on the line he appeared to be in position to clear. But the ball rolled into the net and it was a well-deserved 1-1.

Sports pressure continued to the half-time whistle, with Greaves sending in a cracking shot just wide, before a Sault attack earned a late corner, but it remained 1-1.

Bosworth was straight into action from the kick off of the second half, after Hope had broken through the ranks. But Beavon was almost one on one with Hudson at the other end, as the pace of the game picked up again.

50 minutes gone though and Oldham got the break again. Sports defence lost out on the left and sub Willoughby met the cross with a powerful shot out of Bosworth’s reach, 1-2.

Sports were still not down, but the hosts went close again with a 55th minute header just over, before Sault and Dales combined again to earn a corner.

Both Bradley and Atkinson had continued to push forward from midfield and the pressure began to build and build again in Mickleover’s favour. A terrific run by Greaves down the right found Dales in the middle, but the keeper tipped his shot just wide and out for a corner.

Dales battled through again to shoot just wide after 63 minutes, with Greaves then having another try. 

Oldham had a 10 man defence as the runs and shots continued, but after 67 minutes they finally cracked, Bennett battled through on the left again and his precise cross was met with an instinctive flick from Beavon and it was 2-2.

Barely had the game kicked off again when Oldham got a break. The defence seemed to freeze and Hope was left with time to spare, picking his spot to beat Bosworth at close range. 2-3.

Dolan then came on for Sault, which allowed Bennett to return to his more familiar right back position.

Mann and Delap were pushing forward more too, as it was almost becoming a 10 man strike force for Mickleover.

Dolan had a strong run down the left after 75 minutes, cut in but his shot was blocked and then Dales shot just wide after having the defence well beaten.

There were seven minutes of normal time left when Bennett, now on the right, outpaced the defence yet again, and found Beavon. There was no hesitation as he fired in his second and it was back level pegging at 3-3.

Oldham had a rare shot again but almost hit the stand roof, before Beavon came off and was replaced by Ryder, with the referee indicating seven minutes to add on.

“I thought my days of scoring goals at this level were over, but had that great understanding with “Benno” again, similar to what “Dalesy” and I have. One of the best cup ties I have ever played in,” said two goal Beavon.

Dales was fouled on a 94th minute run goalwards, but the pressure from Sports continued right to the full-time whistle.

3-3 still at the end of normal time and being the FA Trophy, there is no extra time or replay, so it was straight to penalties.

Oldham went first and scored, before Greaves made it level. Oldham scored their second and Mann made it level again, But after it had gone 2-3 in the Latics favour, Dales shot was saved.

Bosworth got his hand to Oldham’s fourth, but couldn’t stop it, but fate was finally sealed when Atkinson’s shot was saved too and the dream was over.

Absolutely brilliant, we were the better team and deserved the victory. We are now setting standards for where we are as a team. We beat Spennymoor and outplayed Oldham, both from leagues above us. The support too, was just fantastic

said Sports gaffer John McGrath.

Well over 200 travelling supporters made the trip and the reward was one of the most outstanding performances from a Mickleover team, against a team two leagues higher, who for much of the game were made to luck very much second best.

Let’s have the same support at the Don Amott Arena on Saturday, when we face Leamington and get us back on the top of the table.

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